Thursday, August 28, 2014

Science is sexy

I haven't posted in a while, so here, a comic I enjoy:

Source: Hark, a vagrant, by Kate Beaton!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A letter from my 18-year-old self

I got a letter in the mail the other day. It was from me, eight years earlier, my senior year of high school (it was originally meant to get sent when I was 23, rather than 26, but I'm almost happier that it arrived later). It came with a prompt:

CONGRATULATIONS!! You are about to conclude 13 years of schooling. For most of you, this is the first major milestone you are overcoming in your pursuit of an education; for ALL of you, this is the beginning of a new life, a new road on which you are starting to walk, and a new perspective on the world and your place in it.

Write yourself a letter reflecting on your education for the past thirteen years, on what you have accomplished in your life and education up to now, and which details your hopes, dreams, and goals for your future education and plans. What is some advice that you have learned in the past 13 years that you would like to be reminded of? How do you think that your education thus far has prepared you for the future? Why do you want to continue learning? How do you think you will affect the world? What are some goals you have for yourself? Reminisce, review, and reflect on yourself and your life as it stands now. Write a letter that will draw you back to this time but that will also push you forward to the future ... YOUR future!

This is what I wrote to myself:

Dear me,

First of all, I wonder if my handwriting will have evolved by the time I am twenty-three.* In all my years of education, I have been decidedly undecided regarding the way I want to form my letters. At present I seem to have settled on a mishmash of cursive-print.

Anyway...the past twelve..or thirteen..or fourteen years of school seem like a finger snap to me now. And the most random things stand out, especially from elementary school. Middle school is mostly a blot, but some memories are pleasant. And high school...was better than I ever imagined it could be. I have friends, and status, great teachers, good grades...it's actually been fun. I sort of wonder how college could ever prepare [sic, I think I meant compare] - I'm sure it will be quite the culture shock. But also, an adventure. A glorious adventure.

I hope I'm ready. I don't feel particularly brilliant, but I suppose I can hold my own. I have a foundation of love, support, strength, wisdom, faith**, and quirky memory. I have a family that could not be more of a blessing. My loved ones assure me that I'm ready. I am almost ready to believe them.

Even if it turns out I'm NOT, what a wonderful opportunity college is. What freedom, what joy to live for myself, by myself. And, in my curiosity and love for learning, I eagerly anticipate that my brain, which is currently [image of a small brain surrounded by question marks] will be stretched and provoked into [image of a much larger brain surrounded by exclamation points]. Or at least, that is what I hope will happen. Who knows what awaits me? I have no set goals, I only want to learn, and keep learning, soaking in all I can (except completely unnecessary Calculus), amazingly never reaching my saturation point (except during final exam week).

And keep myself. I know I'll change, it's unavoidable. But let it be for good. Let me continue to pursue what I love, drawing, writing, reading, singing. Do not give me a spirit of timidity - help me to be BRAVE, and joyful, faithful** and smart.

But, although I hope to keep doing what brings me pleasure (harmless, innocent sorts!***), don't keep me in my box. I want to taste all I can. I want to become a connoisseur of life. I want to become REALLY GOOD at something, not just pretty good at a handful of things.**** I want to find my medium, my place, my purpose. I don't know what I want to be (commercial airline pilot? masseuse? bee keeper? mortician? lounge singer?), but I want to love what I become.

I may never make a dent in the world, but that's okay. Maybe I'll make little differences. I'll cultivate my own life.

The most important thing I have learned so far, besides having a healthy curiosity, a positive mindset, and a sense of humor, is simply this:

Love.

Phileo or agape - it's important.
Keep it.
Initiate love with wild abandon.
Nourish it.
Trust.
Never fear to love.
Encourage it.

Never give up on love. There is so much love to be found, and so much to give.

Whatever specific relationships I keep, or release, find again, lose, rejoice in, am devoted to...

Love endures.

I have been so lucky to have a family that daily teaches me the value of love.

So lucky to have a Lord who loves me enough to forgive me (forgiveness is important too), who saved me.**

And all my wonderful friends - lost, forgotten, strong, weak, wonderful, wonderful. Remember them, remember to make the effort.

So. There isn't much more I can say, except to recap:

1) Keep an open mind.
2) Keep an open heart.
3) Take it to the limit.
4) Embrace life.
5) Never stop learning.
6) Love, love, love.

This is going to be an amazing life.
All the best of luck!

Love,

me.
(yourself)
(at 18)

I alternately cringe and smile fondly at my youthful, idiot self. I'm so desperately sincere! So naive! And I write like I'm trying to impress a teacher (probably because I guessed that my teacher would read my letter - not sure if she did..but it's a pretty safe bet).
But wait, there's more! Evidently I finished my letter and still had time to burn, so there's another sheet of impromptu thoughts, and they are a little less...effortful:

Oh!
By the way...
Today is a Thursday!

I recently got a Costco card.

I live in Bellevue (at Lala's again!) and Issaquah (<3 i="">

I went to Alex's prom last Saturday - it had fondue fountain. Mmmmm...
Prom #2 (TBCS [my high school]), on a boat, is this Saturday.
I am in love with Alex, and I am going to marry him.*****

The Voltaire at Dilettante cannot be forgotten. Nor can Seattle in all its glory - and Rocky Horror nights.

I went to Districts [for Varsity Golf] yesterday and shot a 121. (I love golf.) Don't forget - 25% hips, shift weight from right to left, head down, chin up, trust the driver, it is magnificent.

My locker is the snazziest.

Celery is amazing.

Go with God!**

And dissect as many critters as possible.******

Bubble Tea is amazing.

There you have it. A glimpse inside the mind of a nerdy teenager. It's funny - in some ways, I am still exactly the same person. I'm still not as cool or charming as I think I am, or maybe I'm cooler and more charming than I know (that would be nice). But I think I would make my 18-year-old self happy. I have retained my core personality, but with the improvements that come with years and experience and some serious heartbreak. I would also infuriate my 18-year-old self, because I would mock her - lovingly, but incessantly.



*My handwriting is still EXACTLY THE SAME, almost eerily so.
**I thought I was a Christian, but it turned out that I was still an agnostic, just momentarily brainwashed by the private school I attended.
***Hahahahahaha!
****Still working on this. I realized the other day that I'm mostly mediocre at everything I do. This does not keep me from feeling like a cool chick most days, for some reason. Delusions of grandeur, probably.
*****Thank GAWD I did not. In fact, as of this month, all three of my great former loves are now married, and not to me, and I'm sincerely happy about that.
******I was really into science, biology in particular. We'd just dissected fetal pigs in class and I thought it was so cool. But this sentence is still really creepy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

In pursuit of healthy living

No, this isn't going to become one of those blogs. I don't aspire to use the words "ketosis" or "crossfit" here, or anywhere. I mean, no promises, but I feel reasonably sure that I'll never be that girl. I did go on a day-long hike with Tyler and Boots, though, to Lake Serene!




Since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I've planned for some time to visit a nutritionist to help me navigate my dietary limitations and boost my health. I'm already vegetarian most of the time, but I also tried going gluten-free for a little more than a month. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but it was also much harder in a way - every time I went to a restaurant, I had to hunt for the one or two things that would be both veg and GF. And I began to dream of things like baguettes.

I visited the nutritionist for the first time this weekend. She was recommended to me by a friend as being body positive, and she definitely was! We didn't bother with weight or calories or any kind of body shaming. Instead, we talked about my goals, discussed some strategies, and did a visualization exercise. I was told to imagine the most wonderful, peaceful place I could, and then give that place a path to my "food house." I was allowed to imagine whatever I wanted inside the food house, and I could stay as long as I wanted, and return whenever I felt like it. I literally imagined a cabin full of bread. So, since being gluten-free hadn't seemed to really impact my health, negatively or positively, we decided that the restriction itself was unhealthy and that I could slowly reintroduce gluten into my diet. I was very pleased with the news, but I didn't immediately run out and eat a whole pie... just a bunch of peanut butter pretzels and a piece of chocolate bread and a quesadilla. That's all, though.

Since then, however, I've made several healthy, satisfying eating choices that look and feel a lot different than the scavenging I usually do. It felt good to get permission to plan just a couple meals a week, and to allow pre-made meals (from Trader Joe's, natch) to supplement those. Today I had a hummus and veggie wrap for lunch with a side of sweet, dark cherries that I bought at a roadside stand, and tonight I made a watermelon, mint, and feta salad with whole grain baguette on the side. And I feel good.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Getting a tarot reading

I love the Yes and Yes Network of Nice and I take advantage of the generous hook-ups all the time - they're wonderful! This month, I was intrigued by Mariya's offer to do a tarot reading for Yes and Yes readers. I sent her this email:

I'm wondering what the semi-near future holds. I've been in a relationship with a great person for 2 years, and I'm about to start grad school (for Community Counseling). I want to know if these two things are going to be successful, I suppose. And I kind of want to know what kind of person I'm going to turn out to be. I'm 26 and I still don't feel very grown-up! Will I be worthy of the kind of future that I want (loved, happy, satisfied with my job)?

Mariya sent me a picture of my cards..



..and wrote back:

Let's start with your relationship. What I can tell you is that it can be successful, but you have to learn and continuously finesse certain skills to keep it going in the right direction. In a way, every relationship can be considered successful as long as you learn and grow through it, but in your case I can tell you what you need to focus on. What's key is your communication skills - both ways. The idea is to learn how to express your ideas and wishes clearly, without leaving each other to guess. It's finding a balance between clarity and kindness. You want to be direct, but keep in mind that all your words are coming from love, if that makes sense.

Now for your education will also be a great journey if you understand that new knowledge overrides old. So if you come across something that contradicts something that you learned before, then unless it feels intuitively wrong, take it to be a development of your old knowledge. That sounds abstract, so let me give you a visual. Imagine that all the education and information that you got up to this point is the first section of a large staircase. What you are about to learn is the next section. The steps are different, but you would never have gotten to section two without climbing section one first. Therefore, let go of any old ideas or concepts that seem to be out of place now, and let yourself be guided by the new. This is hard to put into words, so feel free to ask questions if I'm not making myself clear.

The person you will be - or should be given you choose the right path in life - is someone who follows her passions and doesn't give up when the situation gets tough. You follow your calling no matter how challenging things can get, because that's when you know you're close to the finish line of your goal. And you definitely do deserve all the good that will happen, and you need to remember to celebrate yourself, celebrate people you love, and celebrate life. By honoring all of the above, you will be more than worthy of life's blessings.

Finally, I wanted to share something I saw about your life in general. Your path in this life is one of a clear mind and joy. You're in a position to feel great and spread light to people who need it, so never forget that. Keep in mind that just one smile can make someone's day, and that kind of stuff can become your greatest talent. All you need to do is not take yourself too seriously and enjoy every day.

I like tarot because, even if it's not "real," it still helps me refine and clarify thoughts I've already been having, or it gives me a positive message I can hold on to. This reading made me feel happy and purposeful. Thank you, Mariya!

Friday, July 25, 2014

I shopped the Nordstrom sale

And all I got was frustration! (And, okay, a couple of bras.)

The other night, I left work and immediately headed to Nordstrom. Inspired by memories of back-to-school shopping with my mom and blog posts by stylish women, I was so sure I'd score some great finds.

But what I learned is that the stuff they have briefly discounted is bullshit. Maybe I've gotten pickier, but this isn't the sale I remember. It's not the sale my parents remember, either, who recall that in the glory days, everything was discounted, not just a few mediocre racks that people are only interested in because discounted wares are appealing on principle. I was looking for wardrobe staples, but what I found was mostly shoddy polyester, cheap cashmere, and ill-fitting designer throwaways.

Most of the time, I'm picky about my clothes. I don't have a huge budget, but I have high standards. I will hunt forever for the perfect this or that, and I'm rarely willing to settle. I want to love my clothes, and I want our love to last. I want the classics I buy to stay classic, not fall apart within a year. I really hope that Michael Kors's premonition comes true:

“I have my predictions – I’m sure technology will continue to have an impact on fashion, particularly the way people shop. I think quality will be increasingly important – we’re moving away from a time of fast fashion.”

"Nordstrom" used to be synonymous with "quality." Has that changed? Or has quality become a luxury for the super-rich? Not necessarily, if you're a diligent thrift, consignment, or eBay shopper - but sometimes I just want it to be easy, especially when my body seems to be constantly morphing.

If you must go, your best bets are shoes and brassieres. Stay away from anything in the middle. If you're like me, it'll just make you sad.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hypothyroid, body image, and fashion

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism this year, which was both disappointing - I have to take medication every day for the rest of my life to make my thyroid work properly - and a relief. I'd gained so much weight so quickly in the past year, and it was no longer a mystery why my clothes fit one month but not the next and why I was tired and cold all the time. I'm happy with my body at any weight and I generally have good self-image, but it was frustrating and disheartening to suddenly feel like I had literally nothing to wear. I was feeling less cute, less confident, and less attractive clothed or naked, and I wasn't cool with that.

I take my daily medication and I've gotten back into working out, but while I work toward a happier, healthier me, I still need to feel comfortable and confident in my clothes. I used to think I was reasonably stylish and that I knew how to shop for my body type, but even at a pretty average size 10, I wasn't finding much in stores to excite me.

Recently, I chatted with an aspiring personal stylist about my wardrobe challenges and goals. She asked me to measure myself and to take pictures of my body from the front, the side, and the back.

No makeup, no hairstyling, no filter, no (gasp) bra! IT'S THE REAL ME Y'ALL.
While the pictures are not the most photogenic of me, I recognize their benefit: they give me a more realistic image of my body and my shape. (Plus, if I ever get super ripped, they can be my "before" picture! Ha.)

I cleaned out my closet and donated anything that didn't fit or flatter to Goodwill and thredUP. I've also stopped following style blogs that aren't representative of my shape or size, and intentionally followed more blogs like Franish, Chic On the Cheap, and Nadia Aboulhosn on Feedly and Instagram. They inspire me to try new and different fashions, and maybe even branch out into the mystifying world of accessories. I've also plumped up my Pinterest inspiration board.

In closing, here's a new style adventure for me. I discovered that I love rompers and want to wear them alllll the time:


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nashville (Come back now, y'all.)


So.. I went to Nashville more than two months ago and I'm only just now blogging about it. Terrible! I went to Nashville for a few reasons: first and foremost, I'm a "Yelp Elite" (which basically means I have too much time on my hands, so I review a lot of businesses and I'm rewarded handsomely with free drinks and appetizers), so I was invited to Yelp Spring Break, an annual adventure held this year in Nashville. Secondly, it was my birthday and I wasn't doing anything else interesting. Thirdly, I watch the show "Nashville" and I had built up some pretty heavy expectations for Music City. I invited two of my best girlfriends, Katie and Lara, and off we went!

We took a red-eye flight to Nashville and arrived around five on a Thursday morning, at which point we all took a three hour nap in a lounge outside of security. Despite the blaring televisions and the frequent loudspeaker announcements, it was among the more comfortable airport waiting areas I've visited. Highly recommended for the multiple large, squishy couches.

After that, we took a taxi to a nice, air conditioned (very important) AirBnB loft in East Nashville, which is basically the Capitol Hill or perhaps the Brooklyn of Nashville - trendy hipsters abound. Most of the Yelp events took place downtown, so we learned a hard lesson very quickly - Nashville is not the most walkable city. We walked from East Nash to downtown the first day and never did it again afterward. The heat! The sweat! The humidity! The honking cars! The chub rub! Awful. Unfortunately, Nashville has a terrible transit system so we mostly relied on Lyft trips. (None of our drivers knew about Yelp, which seemed odd. We did our best to educate them.) On the plus side, our walk led us to our first Nashville meal, Edley's East Barbecue, where we split a big pile of brisket (have I mentioned that I forsake any and all diets, including vegetarianism, when I'm on vacation?) and some sides. It was gooood.

After a lackluster happy hour at The Southern, the first cool place we went was Hatch Show Print, a printing press that has churned out posters for some of the greats, such as Patsy Cline, as well as modern performers. I bought way too many t-shirts there.



Later that evening, we went to a Welcome to Nashville Yelp reception at Anthem, but we were all tired and crabby and it was really difficult to track down the people with appetizer trays, so we gave up and went home. Katie got right into bed, but Lara and I were hungry, so we wandered a little ways down the road from our place and found King Solomon's Gyros. The guy who took our order was apparently the owner; he had a cast on his wrist, had just returned to work after a convalescence, and as a result was extremely, weirdly particular about what he would and would not sell us (because he hadn't been around to make sure everything was perfect, apparently). Instead, he personally made us two gyros each (the first one on the house), off-menu barbecue style, with chicken and then lamb, so we could give him our opinion. They were quite tasty and I was apparently starving, because I ate both of them easily and then split a dessert with Lara.

The next day, we had no plans until the evening, so we got to explore Nashville. We had lunch at Monell's, which is evidently an institution.



It's a family-style restaurant where you sit down to eat with a bunch of strangers and only take as much food as you can finish. I was unusually interested in chatting with strangers (maybe the Southern atmosphere rubbed off on me a bit) so I found the experience delightful.



Next, we went shopping in the fancy Belmont/Hillsboro neighborhood, which reminded me of Madrona. We visited imogene + willie and Katy K Designs and I pretended to lick a sign, which is gross because I actually hate ranch dressing.



And then it was time for ICE CREAM!



Look at all those flavors! Do you know how hard it was to choose? But the staff were really gracious and patient about offering samples, and eventually I was able to decide on Banana French Toast, Brambleberry Crisp, and Chocomole. The BFT had chunks of banana in it; the Brambleberry, likewise, had whole berries and oats in it. The Chocomole burned low and perfectly in the back of my throat. Lara and Katie also enjoyed their choices, which included Savannah Buttermint, Buckeye State, Salty Caramel, and Dark Chocolate. This may be sacrilege, but Jeni's has the best ice cream I've ever tasted and I wish it would come to Seattle right now.

Later that night, we went to another Yelp event, the "It's Spring Break Y'All" party. It was held in a space that looked too large for the number of guests, but there were nice things there like vendors and snacks, and a dunk tank featuring a man in what looked like a bumblebee outfit. Katie, softball star that she once was, dunked him with ease, and then went on to destroy some green inflatable pigs.










The next morning, we had breakfast at the shockingly Seattle-esque Barista Parlor. I felt right at home, and my iced coffee and biscuit sandwich were stunningly good.


Then we checked out the shopping in East Nash, and a chicken festival.







We capped off the night with dinner and free music out on the patio of The Listening Room Cafe.


The next morning, we attended Yelp's "Bloodies, Brunch, and Braids" event at the Lucy Pop Salon. We were promised a delicious brunch spread and "endless" Bloody Marys, but alas, it was more like a continental breakfast and the Bloodies were extremely limited. However, we were happy with our stylists and our braids looked cute.


With our braids newly spiffed and ready for the paparazzi, we made our way to Jackalope Brewing Company. I have a special affinity for jackalopes since being terrified by them as a child, so it was a mandatory stop even though I hate beer. I knew at the very least that I would find a t-shirt or a tumbler, and that I did. There was also a very interesting antique mall across the street, and it was next to the train tracks, so basically my two favorite things combined.



We wrapped up our day with "Thelma and Louise" (which seemed appropriate for our girlfriend adventure) at the Grassy Knoll outdoor movie night in East Nash. The evening was warm and the atmosphere was neighborly, and I tried tempeh tacos and boiled peanuts for the first time. It was a lovely way to end our stay in Nashville.

1001 in 101 challenges #14 and 16 complete!
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